Did you know that only one in five UK businesses are run by a woman? We found that quite shocking. So, as it’s International Women’s Day on March 8th, Alex and I thought we'd share our story. We set up Collingwood Candles as a side hustle to our day to day jobs - Alex worked in publishing and Tora worked in the film industry. We wanted to run our own business, instead of having to deal with an uncertain job market where all the opportunities seemed to be going to people half our ages. Plus, dealing with a commute and all the rest of it....
We both wanted to create a product that would fit around home life (Tora has two small children and Alex has two small but demanding cats), earn money (obviously) but also, rather crucially we think, bring us joy. We've loved scented candles for a long time – and we're also fascinated by packaging and branding. We started researching everything from fragrance to wax, sustainable packaging to design. We found amazing people – Jeff, who makes the candles, knows everything there is to know about wax, wicks, burn times and fragrance percentages. We found our fantastic label designers, Amphora, down the road from Tora in Bath. They usually design wine and spirits labels, but took to designing the Collingwood labels with gusto. They produced so many brilliant designs, with different fonts, colourways and imagery, that many rounds of market research (aka asking friends and family which ones they’d definitely buy) ensued.
More friends and family provided expert advice on everything from branding and marketing to PR. You can take that phrase ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and apply it to nearly any project or business you want to start. Plus, most of those trusty advisors are women – which makes sense, given that that’s where the bulk of the market for our candles is. If you want to start up your own business, however big or small, then we'd say a key thing to do is ask for help, wherever you can find it. Most people love to share their expertise, and most of us are at a point in life where we want to see our peers succeed.
Collingwood Candles has only launched recently, but we're loving running it, and deciding on new fragrances, designs and products to add to the collection, as well as meeting retailers. To celebrate International Women’s Day, why not buy something from a business that’s owned and run by a woman and see if we can all, collectively, boost those business-owning stats. Because the more women there are leading the way, the more will dare to follow in their footsteps...
Female-owned brands we love…
Pip and Nut
If you’re a nut butter fan, then you’ve probably got a jar of Pip and Nut stashed in the cupboard. Pippa Murray started the brand when she was only 24 – six years later, it’s grown from a market stall business that she ran on weekends to a multi-million pound company stocked in over 5,000 UK stores.
She’s got some great tips on starting a business – and creating a healthy business culture – too.
Pip’s also featured on the She can. She did podcast on Apple Podcasts, if you want more inspiration.
Sophi Tranchell has been the MD of Divine Chocolate since 1999. The company is 45% owned by 85,000 cocoa farmers who make up the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative in Ghana and all their products are fair trade certified. As well as championing social enterprise, Sophi is a passionate advocate for gender equality in food supply chains, so you can get your chocolate fix and be ethical.
Bec Astley Clarke says that she ‘saw a gap in the market for amazingly designed contemporary jewellery’. As her background was in e-commerce, she could see the bigger brands were being slow to adopt online, so ditched the bricks and mortar approach for her ‘everyday luxury’ jewellery.
Plus, she wanted to create a brand that was focused on female customers: ‘More and more women buy jewellery for themselves and we are in celebration of that movement. A lot of the traditional jewellery brands still focus on men buying diamond pendants for their girlfriends, but we definitely have women coming to us to treat themselves.’
Not on the High Street
Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish launched Not on the High Street from their kitchen table in 2006. It now hosts more than 3,500 independent designers and features more than 70,000 products. Both have been awarded an MBE for services to small business and enterprise.